I am Joe Van Deuren, 2nd degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do and have trained in a number of other arts also. My story is not your typical one, but I would like to share it with you as I start this new journey.
I grew up in Odenton, MD with my mom, dad and sister. Mom was 21 when I was born and dad, well he was 54. Big difference in those days and a large part of my story. My father almost died in 1956 with bleeding ulcers and his health went down hill from there. In fact he finally succumb to heart disease in November 11, 1968. My family was very poor, though I did not know it till later in life. Dad hardly ever worked due to health and my mother who grew up on a farm and not very well educated took very simple jobs.
At the age of 11 I was already trying to figure out how to make some money and did so by running errands for neighbors. Having been seen as industrious by a local market they asked me if I would come in and sweep and other odd jobs. Pay was $.75 per hour. I was elated and soon was doing more and more at the store till finally at the age of 16 I was ordering stock for the store and all sorts of things for $1.25 per hour.
College never crossed my mind. I was not a good student, by school standards but I had learned about work ethic. After leaving school I got a job with a department store and that led to a job with a carpet company in DC. Pay was $250 per week. This job taught me a lot but this is not where I wanted to spend my life. Oh I had one other problem too. I had a real anger issue. I did not know at that time what I was angry about, but believe me I was angry. So much so that I did some destructive things and was released from this job.
Soon I hooked on to a company that had a brand new from Germany product that really intrigued me and I was accepted to be a sales person for this product. I soon realized that sales were not my thing but there was a real need for someone to install this product and so after 2 years of introducing this to the Baltimore / Washington area I started a company doing the installation of this product. I was the first in the area to do this exclusively and soon was flying around the nation teaching others the ins and outs of this business. And I started to make decent money.
My first child came along and this was a big change in my life. I was providing for her in ways that I had never had been provided for and I realized there were still many kids out there, in all ranges of economic conditions that still needed someone to give them encouragement to do the right thing and teach them how. I wanted to have an impact on kids lives and had no idea how I could do that.
Then along came martial arts. After the first 3 classes I knew this was it, this was the way to get the kids attention and use it to teach them all the things mom and dad tried hard to teach, but need that ‘village’ to help support them to do. After training for a number of years I started teaching , and the approach I took was always about respect and discipline first and then technique was next. The parents loved it and I wanted to do this so bad.
It was not to be with the instructor I was with, in what I saw as fair and equitible, and so I started my school November 2003. I would call it Balanced Life Skills. I would teach martial arts but with character development and community service as the backbone of the program.
I met Tom Callos in 2004 and was invited to take part in the first Ultimate Black Belt Test that fall and into the spring of 2005. It was different and Tom was different. He talked about the same things I talked about – but bigger. I had always been afraid to go that far out on a limb, and yet there he was way out there. I knew I had to hang around him. Soon I felt the permission to teach martial arts the way I wanted to and not the way the commercialized schools did in factory style, milling out students with black belts. And soon I accepted him as a mentor. What a teacher he is. As you get to know him you will know what I mean.
I don’t agree with everything he says or does, but he is headed on the right road and I am happy to be on this road too. Many times when I look up he is off exploring a different path or idea, and soon I have to decide is this for me or do I keep going down this path. Somehow it all works out and so I have decided to go through the UBBT once again. Will I earn my next rank? I am not sure. I am going to try and keep trying till Tom says “Joe you have earned it.”
It does not matter the time, what matters is the journey and what I learn that I can bring back to our students. What matters is can I give Tom and the rest of the team something back that they will value as much as I value what they have provided for me. What matters is will I set the example of what it means to be a good student to all of my students so they can grow too? This is my story on this blog. Some will be good and some you may wonder about me? When you see me slipping please do not stand back and question my integrity or intent. Instead stand up and pull me along if I need it, encourage me when needed and give me complement if I have earned it. I will not quit, I will persevere till the job is done.